NGOs commend suspension of work on C’River superhighway

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Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi

Environmental non-governmental organisations in Calabar, Green Concern for Development and Peace Point Actions, have commended the suspension of the proposed superhighway planned by the Cross River State Government, and urged the Federal Government to ignore the recent threat issued by the state government.

“GREENCODE and PPA commend the bold steps and the effort of the Federal Government so far in listening to the plight of the citizens by ordering stop work on the superhighway project on which work has commenced without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment,” the NGOs said in a joint statement.

The groups said the superhighway was ill-conceived as it would not be cost-effective, but would plunge the state into debt, besides the loss of biodiversity and the impoverishment of the people.

According to the groups, the superhighway came along with an incredible revocation of land ownership of over 180 communities, and has seen to the indiscriminate destruction of virgin forest areas, houses and farm land.

The statement read in part, “Going by the national laws and policy, such project should have an acceptable Environmental Impact Assessment; but despite the pressure for the state to commission an all-inclusive and participatory EIA process, the state contracted a company that turned in a shameful EIA report full of  ‘cut and paste’ perhaps from other similar reports, which clearly shows that no detailed and participatory EIA was conducted in the state, thus pointing to the fact that there is more to hide in the short and long-term negative impacts of the super highway.

“As NGOs concerned about prudent management of public finance, we have faulted this project as the initial contract of bulldozing of the highway pathway from Akpabuyo to Bekwara was never made public; neither did it comply with the Cross River State Public Procurement Law, 2011. The state did not consult the citizens before deciding if the road is needed or not.”

They added that the state government had not publicly displayed the analysis of how the road would be financed.

“Even if it will be under the Public Private Partnership, at least the state should be able to share publicly what will be the state’s contribution and how the private investor would recoup their investments. These leave the citizens to suspect that the reason behind bulldozing of some of the communities’ virgin forests is basically to fell trees and use the proceeds to compensate the private investors,” the groups stated.

According to the groups, the revocation of land within 10km wide on both sides of the superhighway from Bakassi to Bekwara is a massive land grab that would have been auctioned to the highest bidders and used in paying for part of the investment.

They noted that since the state had refused to open up on how the highway construction would be financed, citizens had concluded that upon completion of the road, several toll gates would be installed with high fees, so that the investors could recoup their investments.

The groups recommended that the plan for the construction of the superhighway should be suspended; and that a fast rail track should be constructed beside the existing Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja and Bekwara highway, which would be useful in transporting goods and services faster than the superhighway.

“The fast rail will be safer, faster and cheaper, and will convey larger number of goods, services and humans than the superhighway. Also, the pathway needed for rail track will have less impact on the environment,” the groups said.

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